Arkansas Can Show Us a Few Things About How To Define Adequacy

Education litigation time-line in Arkansas (Only 40 more states to go folks!)

1979 The Alma School District in Crawford County and 10 other school districts file a lawsuit over the state school-funding formula.

1983: Dupree v. Alma School District #30. The Arkansas Supreme Court finds state education funding unconstitutional, a special legislative session attempts placate court.

1992: Lake View School District #25 sues State over gross disparities in funding public schools. An equity suit.

1994 Trial court finds in favor of Lake View, ruling Arkansas’ education system violates equity provisions of the state constitution. 1995 Gov. Jim Guy Tucker signs a bill to create a new school funding system that sends money to districts equally on a per-student basis.

1996 Voters approve Amendment 74 to the state constitution, mandating at least 25 mills of property tax in each school district for maintenance and operation. (Watch for that here in NH!!!)

1998 Following amended complaints by Lake View, the state Supreme Court orders a hearing to determine if the state’s reforms sufficiently satisfied Imber’s 1994

2000 For 19 days in September and October, Pulaski County Chancellor Collins Kilgore conducts the Lake View inquiry at which 36 witnesses testified. The court record totaled 20,878 pages.

2001 Trial judge declares the Arkansas school funding system to be unconstitutionally inequitable, and that it must meet the standards of the Rose ed. funding case in Kentucky. The court then goes beyond the constitutional provisions requiring an “general, suitable, efficient” education one step further and rules it must be adequate as well. Then the court orders the state to fund a preschool program. (Once you open the door..)

2002 The state Supreme Court, in a 7-0 opinion, rules that the state has the ultimate authority over schools. But it inexplicably says there is no such constitutional mandate for pre-school as other state courts have ruled? The court gives the state until Jan. 1, 2004, to come up with a solution.

JAN. 14, 2003: Gov. Huckabee announces plan to consolidate Arkansas’ 310 school districts into between 107-116 districts. Districts that have fewer than 1,500 students would be consolidated unless they could meet standards. Mega-schools would be created but the superintendents becoming state employees plan is dropped.

FEB. 5, 2003: Revolt!!! About 700 anti-consolidation parents, educators and students rally at the state Capitol. “Reform dies in the following legislative session.

JULY 15 Education funding “experts” Odden and Picus, (similar to Augenblick and Myers), release a “study” to define an adequate education as required by the Supreme Court, they recommended (surprise) $847 million in additional spending! (Once again the magic $800 – one billion dollar amount is the pat answer)

NOV. 3 Lake View lawyers threaten to sue the state again.

DEC. 8 Special legislative session to take up education reform. A minimum school district size of 500 recommended by Gov. Huckabee.

JAN. 2004: Plaintiffs file a motion with the Supreme Court to hold the state in contempt for failing to comply with the Lake View ruling. They ask the court to order public schools shut down until the education system is “constitutional”.

JAN. 2004: "Doomsday" scenario described by Gov. Huckabee warning of budget cuts in other areas of government to fund education.

JAN. 22, 2004: State Supreme Court finds the state in "noncompliance" takes jurisdiction. It appoints court "masters" to evaluate actions of the Legislature the Governor.

FEB. 3, 2004: The court appoints two former judges as masters.

FEB. 6 The Legislature finishes special session. Passes $380 million a year in new taxes, sends more money to districts with a higher percentage of low-income students, and consolidates small schools. Gov. Huckabee calls legislative accomplishments "maximum taxes for minimum reform."

APRIL 2: Masters release their report calling many of the legislative acts "laudable" but add that the state will likely continue to have inequities as long as districts are permitted to raise additional money locally.

2004: In a 4-3 decision, the court takes itself out of the case, citing separation of powers concerns and complimenting the state’s education reform measures.

2005: The Legislature did not raise education funding enough for plaintiffs so they have asked the State Supreme Court to re-enter the case.

2006: The State Supreme Court gives the Legislature until Dec. 1, 2006 to come up with a funding plan that meets its vague, never-ending demands.


(No Amendment No Peace)